BookBrowse Reviews The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Round House

A Novel

by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich X
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2012, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2013, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves.

Louise Erdrich's first book in a planned trilogy and a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Plague of Doves, considered the ways in which past trauma filters through generations. The Round House, the second installment, continues with her exploration of a North Dakotan Ojibwe community, this time revisiting Judge Antone Bazil Coutts and his family in a lively yet reflective narration by his thirteen-year old son, Joe. Set during the late spring and early summer of 1988, the novel raises worthy questions about legal jurisdiction, retribution, and loyalty, and features a crime as a catalyst for the plot.

When Joe's mother, Geraldine, is raped during the course of her work maintaining the reservation's tribal enrollment records, uncertainty as to whether the assault occurred on state or tribal land leads to complications, and underscores historic tensions over the question of Indian sovereignty. Much of the plot involves Geraldine's reclusiveness, as well as Joe and his father's struggles to work around her reluctance to name her assailant, and their search for a culprit. When Geraldine finally gathers the courage to reveal the truth, the pace quickens with Joe's desire to avenge the crime and prevent further harm. Scenes thread between the Coutts family and their kin; an investigation riddled with problems; brief reflections narrated by an adult Joe long after the events; and escapades between Joe and his friends, who support him in the aftermath, sometimes helping him search for clues. Erdrich navigates through such dramatic material with admirable ease, telescoping between intensity and respite. She is especially talented at demonstrating the reconfigured relationships in the Coutts household as Gerladine moves from silence to resuming everyday activities, and as Joe's father acknowledges his son's increasing maturity.

However, some details fall short of the book's otherwise thoughtfully considered elements: familiar character types (an evil twin, an ex-stripper with a kind heart, a priest whose public façade belies a rougher streak); humor that stems from perhaps too-easy sources (a grandmother with a salty tongue, a grandfather with a penchant for the alcohol that is forbidden to him; a somewhat bumbling Christian youth group); the fortuitous reemergence of evidence; and, in one instance, a local woman's recollection of her background using poetic language that is not believable. Still, there is much to admire about The Round House, not the least of which is Erdrich's multilayered portrait of a conflicted young man.

Joe, who is gradually pushed to make an irrevocable decision, retains a believable mixture of vulnerability and fearlessness. When he remarks that "The sentence was to endure" – a provocative if unsettling outlook from one so young, and perhaps more so from one who resides in a town frustrated by the tendency for cases to languish without trial – the novel expands with weighty implications. Erdrich holds back little when it comes to seeking emotional resolution for her characters; her novel offers the daring justice that real life seldom affords. Readers intrigued by literature about adolescents coping amid violence will find a striking entry that inspires conversation.

Additional Information

The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction in 2012.

Reviewed by Karen Rigby

This review was originally published in October 2012, and has been updated for the September 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Ojibwe

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Future Home of the Living God
    Future Home of the Living God
    by Louise Erdrich
    Louise Erdrich began Future Home of the Living God in 2002, set it aside, and picked it up again in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Mrs. Parrish
    The Last Mrs. Parrish
    by Liv Constantine
    Amber has lived in poverty all her life, and she has had enough. Of course, wishing to have money ...
  • Book Jacket: Never Coming Back
    Never Coming Back
    by Alison McGhee
    18 out of 23 reviewers gave Alison McGhee's Never Coming Back a rating of 4 or 5, with an average ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
If the Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Wonder Valley
    by Ivy Pochoda

    A visionary and masterful portrait of contemporary L.A. from the author of Visitation Street.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E Dog H I D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.